During the primary election season, I penned a piece called The Bono - Obama Generation. With President-elect Obama’s historic win earlier this week, it seems appropriate to take those ideas and look at next steps for Gen X, Gen Y, and how we can ease political establishment Baby Boomers into their retirement without too much of a fuss.
A commenter once pointed out that Barack Obama actually falls into “Generation Jones” - which is something I am familiar with - but we aren’t about to rewrite the popular culture script for a nation of 300 million people overnight. Barack Obama may have associated with the 60s radical like William Ayers - but his campaign was tech-savvy, appealing to Gen X, Gen Y or the Millennials. How did this identity get created? And who are these thirtysomethings and fortysomethings coming to town? What makes us tick?
Generation X. Born from approximately 1961 - 1980. The children of Baby Boomers and Beatniks. We saw the Berlin wall come down, the Marine barracks in Beirut blown up, glasnost and perestroika crest and fall, the first shuttle launch - the Challenger disaster - and now, we are watching the end of the Shuttle program. Our men were young, fresh from high school and college when they went to liberate Kuwait in late 1990 and early 1991. Now - they are commanding forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. We remember the hostage release in Iran and we were children when Black September was the violent islamist group everyone feared. We remember the Achille Lauro and when hijacked airplanes landed on the tarmac instead of crashing into buildings. We remember the famine in Ethiopia. The genocide in Rwanda. We remember the Mog because it was our men who died there, and at Khobar Towers.
The soundtrack for our generation features Bob Geldof, Bono and U2. Sure, a lot of other artists are socially conscious. But ask a Gen Xer whose voice they hear when they see the news in Darfur, you’ll get U2 as an answer. (See DATA, RED &ONE)More than a few of us skipped school the day the Joshua Tree record was released. Whether you bought it on tape or vinyl, it was a big deal.
We were deprived of knowing Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy and JFK. Because these great men were assassinated. We remember when Sadat died. We have watched as Baby Boomers ran in fear from every major challenge, shirked every responsibility, talked the talk about social justice but refused to let go of their youth. They fought in a botched war (Vietnam) and are determined to make Iraq just as awful - they don’t care how many die in my generation — they just want us to feel their pain.
Here’s my thought - and it’s shared by many, if not expressed outright - Screw Off. Take your obsession with your wasted youth and get the hell out of leadership. Baby Boomers in the federal bureaucracy - whether in Congress, the White House, or on K Street - are trapped in a nightmare of their own making. GROW UP.
Gen Xers are ready to lead. We gave the world YouTube, Google, and ONE - with the help of modern visionaries like Bono. Our people, like Pierre-Richard Prosper, are the War Crimes Prosecutors - for the Rwanda genocide Baby Boomers (specifically President Bill Clinton) did nothing to stop. Our people, like Barack Obama, are motivating people in amazing ways — look at the Iowa Caucus results. And he did not just scare off (and soundly beat) Hillary Clinton - according to The Washington Post, GOP Doubts, Fears ‘Post-Partisan’ Obama.
Do you know why the “conventional wisdom” prior to the election said that Obama can’t possibly turn out the youth (under 30) vote? Because the people providing the CW, are Baby Boomers. And yes-men. The 2008 presidential election is the election where Generation X assumes control of the Republic. Despite my policy differences with Obama, and they are legion, this may be a chance to finally cut ties to the past - and move towards a future without the personal dramas of the past.
American voters don’t care how the Baby Boomers feel ANY MORE. That’s why elder statesman McCain was our nominee. At least McCain gives the impression he still believes in the American ideal. There is no place for petulance in presidential politics. Generation X is leading younger brothers and sisters of Generation Y, to the polls for the first time. Voters want authenticity and change.
And they proved willing to take a chance on a guy, like Obama, who is one of their own generation- rather than give one more ounce of credit to the generation that presided over the obstacles and social engineering that our tax dollars are paying for.
Republicans must do some soul searching. Stop playing the blame game. Be realistic. Get in the here and now. Identify new leaders - like US Rep. Eric Cantor, who is running for the #2 spot in the House. Look in our local communities - identify more folks like Cantor, and get them on the ballot next time for state and local races. We live in the most exceptional country in history. We need to embrace that. Live up to that legacy. And remember, ideas matter. Words matter. Perspective matters.
Gen X matters. Look at Tuesday’s results, Obama knew it. Time for us to get back into the game.